Friday, November 17, 2017

Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars (2017) DOC NYC 2017

ERIC CLAPTON LIFE IN 12 BAARS is a loving portrait of the man that doesn’t shy away from the darkest periods of his life. It is a film that will delight his fans and probably win him many more. It was a super way to end this year's DOC NYC.

The film was directed by Lili Fini Zanuck who was brought in by Clapton to organize all of the material he had been collecting. Knowing something had to be done with the story of his life, he turned all the material to Zanuck whom he had met when they worked on the film RUSH together.  She agreed to do it, warning him that she was not going to shy away from the bad parts of his life. He was fine with that since that was part of the road that brought him to the here and now.

And the whole road is on view here, from his being raised by his grandmother when his mother ran off, to the finding a home I the blues, the Patty Boyd romance, the drugs, the alcohol, the truly horrible behavior, the birth and death of his son, the sobriety and the finding of a family in the wake of tragedy. It’s a moving tale that is firmly focused on the man who is revealed in ways most people probably have never seen, including Clapton who said in a post screening Q&A he has no memory of some of what is revealed in the film.
Thom Powers, Lily Fini Zanuck and Eric Clapton (Photo courtesy of Chocko)
While filled with glorious music, the film, outside of the Derek and the Dominos album and an odd bit here and there the film is not a recollecting about how his albums were made. This a portrait of the man and his head space. A recounting of all of the music is not specific to that journey. However Layla and the other songs on the album are musical resprentations of his heart and soul at the time so we get the deeply moving story of the album's creation. It is a glorious, and, ultimately, doomed love story that moved some to tears.

We get details on how Clapton brought the blues to attention of generations of people. Bookended by BB King ,who influenced Clapton, the film is in love with old school blues artists who Clapton revered so much since the film always keeps them in sight. As BB King says Clapton opened doors for many artists by simply making audiences accepting of the music and over the course of the film we see how that happened.

I have to applaud Zanuck from not shying away from the darkness. We see Clapton stoned, drunk and ugly. We get a real sense of how bad things got via video, news clippings and personal testimony of friends and family who suffered at his hands. On a personal level I got a real sense of why friends of mine who loved Clapton in the early days drifted away from him only to return to him when he became sober once more. It’s clear that he understands that while he regrets all of the bad things he did in the past.

Lily Fini Zanuck has done Clapton proud and made a film that makes us feel the long road he has traveled. I was moved and I freely admit I got misty a couple of times. I love that by the time the film ends there is an earned cathartic release. We’ve traveled with Clapton through the good and bad times and are happy for him and the happiness he’s found.

One of the best music documentaries of the year, it was a hell of a way to end DOC NYC.

The film will be released to US theaters next week. It his theaters in the UK in January 2018. It will play on Showtime in February 2018

1 comment:

  1. I saw the film recently in Australia and was shocked by how dark it was, to say nothing of boring. Everything in the film was in his book. Very little music.How can there be a film about Eric Clapton without even the mention of one of his biggest heroes, Robert Johnson.